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All's well that ends well with Yankees' opener strategy 

Chad Green #57 of the Yankees delivers the

Chad Green #57 of the Yankees delivers the pitch during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, May 19, 2019. Credit: Steven Ryan

It was opener day in the Bronx.           

James Paxton’s inflamed knee isn’t ready for rotation duty just yet, so the Yankees decided to use reliever Chad Green as an opener against Tampa Bay on Sunday at Yankee Stadium and then turn the game over to the rest of the bullpen.

There were a few glitches, but the Yankees still won, 13-5.

Green allowed back-to-back homers in the second and Nestor Cortes Jr. served up a three-run homer in the third, but Cortes then settled in and kept the Yankees in the game.  Adam Ottavino escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth to earn the win and Chance Adams pitched three shutout innings for his first career save, allowing one hit and striking out four.

So opener day worked out fine in the end for the Yankees, although maybe not totally fine for Adams. He was optioned back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after throwing 54 pitches.           

“With our situation, it’s certainly possible that we could use [an opener again],” Aaron Boone said.

Green struck out the side against the Rays on May 12 in his return from Triple-A, but he allowed two runs in an inning against Tampa Bay on Friday night and was not particularly effective on Sunday before being pulled after 1 2/3 innings. He allowed three hits, a walk and a hit batsman and has a 13.50 ERA after 13 outings (11 1/3 innings).

“It’s just really a matter of inches almost right now,” Green said. “It’s like any mistake I make right now just gets hit.”

Cortes, a 36th-round pick in 2013, replaced Green and threw 76 pitches. He yielded three runs, three hits and two walks and struck out six in four innings, both of which were career highs. The 24-year-old lefty allowed a three-run homer by Brandon Lowe in the third that gave Tampa Bay a 5-3 lead but retired the next nine Rays.    

“When I came in, I just had to keep the game close and try and eat up as many innings as I can because I knew we were short on arms, and that’s exactly what I did,” Cortes said.

Ottavino took over for him in the sixth and struck out Austin Meadows swinging on a full-count slider to keep it at 5-5. The Yankees erupted for seven runs in the bottom half.

“Obviously, that put the game away, broke their hearts a little bit, I think,” Ottavino said.

Adams didn’t seem concerned about  the possibility of being sent down for a fresh arm before the Yankees announced his demotion. His heart was filled with joy. It was the 24-year-old righty’s fourth big-league outing but his first this season and his first at Yankee Stadium.

“When I came out of the bullpen, I kind of just tried to take my time,” Adams said. “I felt like the first few steps, I kind of walked just to look at all the fans. It was a pretty surreal experience for me. And then when I got on the mound, I just tried to make my pitches … It was just awesome to finally pitch in Yankee Stadium and to be successful.”   

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